I Cannot Share Your Laughter

The “Ship of Fools” concept has been around since Plato’s Republic, which was written back in 380 BC.  In Book VI, the philosophy uses it as an analogy to describe the instability of democracy, with a captain trying to navigate a ship full of mutinous sailors who think they can do the job better.  Socrates and Adeimantus are discussing the different models by which a government can rule wisely, and Socrates tells Adeimantus to imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better.  The sailors are quarreling with one another about the steering, everyone is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces anyone who says the contrary.

In Sebastian Brant’s 1494 popular satire Ship of Fools, the fools are disreputable and untrustworthy characters who like to wear comical pointed hats, depicted literally as jesters or clowns and they represent well-known or influential people in European church, various influential clerics, government judges, commerce industry or royalty of the era.  The fact that the book dared to confront powerful targets for their foolish or immoral ways probably explains its popularity with all levels of readers.  Ship Of Fools was a novel written by Katherine Anne Porter in 1962 and it became a movie in 1965, starring Vivien Leigh, Lee Marvin and George Segal.  This novel tells the tale of a group of disparate characters sailing from Mexico to Europe aboard a German passenger ship that try their hardest to make good decisions.  This book was a #1 best seller and it takes place on a German luxury cruiser heading across the Atlantic Ocean in the portentous 1930s, just as Hitler’s Nazi Party was beginning to threaten the weak democracy of the Weimar Republic.  The Doors recorded a song titled ‘Ship Of Fools’ on their 1970 Morrison Hotel album which was about an acid trip.  Other notable artists that made a song titled ‘Ship Of Fools’ are Bob Seger on his Night Moves album and Robert Plant on his Now and Zen album.

The Grateful Dead song ‘Ship of Fools’ is a slow ballad, and the lyrics tell a story of anger and defiance.  ‘Ship of Fools’ was written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia and first played on February 22, 1974, at  Winterland in San Francisco.  ‘Ship of Fools’ is the final track on the Grateful Dead’s 1974 Mars Hotel album.  A prospective crew member on the ship, confronts the captain “the strangest he could find” with a proposition.  Oddly Garcia was often referred to as Captain Trips.  This new guy on the crew might be on a fool’s errand, but he tells the captain that he would like to learn how to sink this ship, well whatever floats your boat.  This sailor feels like he is sailing on a cruel sea and he wants this ship of fools to sail away from him.  He no longer thinks that the captain should be in charge and he will not share his laughter on this ship of fools.  He appears to have a history with the captain as he says, “Saw your first ship sink and drown, from rockin’ of the boat, And all that could not sink or swim was just left there to float”, so he knows that the captain is no good as if he was he would have gone down with the ship.  He lets the captain know that he won’t leave him drifting, but since he is thirty years old, he should no longer be called a child.  The ship appears to be running short on supplies and he is thinking about warning the other sailors not “to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.”

Went to see the captain, strangest I could find,
Laid my proposition down, laid it on the line.
I won’t slave for beggar’s pay, likewise gold and jewels,
But I would slave to learn the way to sink your ship of fools.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools sail away from me.
It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

Saw your first ship sink and drown, from rockin’ of the boat,
And all that could not sink or swim was just left there to float.
I won’t leave you drifting down, but woh it makes me wild,
With thirty years upon my head to have you call me child.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools sail away from me.
It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

The bottles stand as empty, as they were filled before.
Time there was and plenty, but from that cup no more.
Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few:
Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.

Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools sail away from me.
It was later than I thought, when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

Written for 1/13/19 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “laugh/laughter/laughing”.

5 thoughts on “I Cannot Share Your Laughter

Comments are closed.